Venus and Mars
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Palma Il Giovane
Italian, Venice, about 1605 - 1609
Oil on canvas
80 7/8 x 56 1/4 in.

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Venus twists on the bed in a curved yet inviting pose, and Mars extends his limbs below, with a putto aiding him to disrobe. The bodies of these mythological lovers respond to each other in their similar anticipatory gestures, creating a dynamic experience of space. The composition's bold diagonal, from the maidservant airing the bedclothes at the top left to Mars's armor at the bottom right, further enhances the scene's sense of drama and spatial depth.

Palma Il Giovane perpetuated many elements of Tintoretto's style, such as the sexual magnetism that galvanizes this entire canvas. Palma painted few mythological subjects, probably for a small circle of his intellectual friends. The poet Giambattista Marino spent time in Venice from 1606 to 1607, and Palma may have painted this canvas for him.